Everyone has that friend that is supposedly a "YouTube Marketing Expert", but all too often, their expertise is more in the realm of telling tall tales than t is in growing a channel.
One of the most irritating things about being a YouTuber is that we have to grin and bear it whenever someone offers the amazing advise that they "know" will take your channel to the next level, even though they themselves have yet to grow their own following using their advise. Yes, I know - it's well almost very well intentioned, and yes it's the thought that counts, but in the moment, it's not always easy to act grateful for tips that we know are complete bunk.
But- what about the tips that we aren't so sure about? How do we handle the advise that we can't identify as true, but we also can't rule out? YouTube is a Google product after all, and the tech giant isn't in the habit of telling us exactly how to rise to the top of their algorithms - there is always a good amount of holding our noses and diving in on a leap of faith. That's a policy that keeps people from gaming the system, but it also means that we never know 100% for sure if we are doing everything we can to keep the YouTube juice flowing or if we're going astray of the platform and risking banishment to the basement of irrelevancy. The unfortunate reality is that taking bad advise will - at best- be a complete waste of time, and at worst- can cause us to lose out on opportunities or even lose our channels entirely.
Today, we're going to take a look at 5 of the biggest YouTube myths that have been circulating for quite some time. Sometimes they are driven by simple misunderstanding, sometimes by ego, and other times by guesswork that took on a life of its own. These myths span over a lot of ground, but the one thing that they all share in common is that they have been passed off as gospel and have hurt quite a few channels as a result.
Myth #1 - YouTube Ranks Videos by Their Quality
This is one of those myths that sounds like it should be true, and a lot of creators who have done well on the platform offer "Quality" as the factor that makes them stand out from the pack, and to a degree that might be true in a round about way. "Quality" is a subjective term that can mean a lot of things, from the camera work to the editing, the script, the pacing, the lighting, the audio, the creativity.... you get the idea. "Quality" is something that is in the eye of the beholder and nearly impossible to really quantify, and believe it or not- YouTube doesn't even try to quantify it!
Ranking something as subjective as "Quality" is a losing battle for YouTube. Algorithms are powered by numbers and formulas, not by opinions or human judgement. You can assign a number to things like "watch time" or "downloads" or "interactions", it's a lot harder to assign a number to something like how tight the camera work was on that video of your kids pouring millions of Zorbee's into your swimming pool, or just how creative it was when you showed that awesome make up tip that makes you look like Ariana Grande rather than Don Rickles.
Now, that's not to say that "Quality" doesn't serve a purpose in getting your channel ranked higher- it certainly does, but indirectly. The "Quality" you put into your video will hopefully be what attracts actual HUMANS to your videos, and obviously human behavior is a lot more quantifiable than human opinions. YouTube might not be able to determine a "good" video from a "bad" video, but them trust us enough to let us vote for them, so "Quality" might not be a ranking factor, but it almost might as well be!
Myth # 2 - A Thumbs Down Vote Will Actually HELP You Because it's Still Considered To Be "Engagement"
There are very few YouTubers who can completely ignore a thumbs-down vote when they are just getting started. I've seen people absolutely ignore 100 thumbs-up votes and just obsess over the 3 thumbs-down they got on the video that they poured their souls into. It's understandable- nobody wants blind rejection... when it's that impersonal, it's almost more insulting.
Of course, when you have been uploading for a while, you start to get desensitized to the thumbs-down votes- they are just part of the game after all. The reality is that you WILL get people who don't like your videos, and if you are getting a lot of views, you are inevitably going to pick up one of the dreaded "trolls". Trolls like to mess with creators, and sometimes they take the easy way out and just blanket your videos with thumbs-downs. A lot of seasoned creators will tell you not to worry though- that the joke is actually on them, because a thumbs-down is still counted as "engagement", and engagements of any kind are considered to be a good thing by YouTube, who will then start recommending your video even more than ever. It's a nice theory, but is it true?
Come now, you know the title of this episode- of course it isn't completely true- in fact, it's a myth.
Let's get technical about this one for a minute. YouTube DOES love engagement. That IS true. A comment, a share, a thumbs-up, a thumbs-down, those are all considered engagement, so that part is actually true. A thumbs down by itself does NOT tell YouTube to punish you, and it COULD be used in your favor... but... there's a catch.
One of the ranking factors that YouTube has revealed is watch time, and watch time is a big one. The amount of time that a viewer is on your video counts, and it counts for quite a bit. What happens when someone watches your entire video and leaves you a thumbs-down? Theoretically, you get credited with keeping a viewer watching, AND you get credited for getting them to interact. That is seen as a strong vote for your video being engaging. That helps you. Yay!
BUT... what if someone clicks your video, watches a minute and a half out of 15 minutes, and then hits the thumbs-down button before bailing out? That's not such a good thing. That tells YouTube that your video wasn't engaging enough to keep someone around, so you take a hit.
Now... what happens when you get A LOT of thumbs-down votes from people (trolls perhaps) who are only staying on your video long enough to leave a thumbs-down? Your watch-time average plummets. Not good.
So.... is a thumbs-down a good thing for your channel, or a bad thing? Much of that is determined by the context of the action, but generally the best advice that I have seen is to generally ignore them- focus on the other factors that are within your control and let people click whatever buttons they want to- just try to make sure you give EVERYONE a reason to stick around to the end of the video!
Myth # 3 : Advertisers Are Scared to Death of YouTube
Unfortunately, YouTube sort of perpetuated this myth themselves, and yes, it is a myth.
YouTube had a couple of bad years when it came to their reputation. Between creators behaving badly, reports that children were being targeted for abuse by perverts who found them on YouTube, and several hate groups that had found their way into monetization, a handful of big name advertisers very publicly pulled all of their advertising dollars from the platform. YouTube, facing this type of criticism for the first time in it's existence arguably over reacted, with a slew of new policy changes, a handful of public statements and press releases about the situation, and the mass demonetization of thousands of channels. Sounds bad, doesn't it?
I wouldn't say it was a good thing by any means, but to say that "advertisers are scared of YouTube" is 100% a myth.
Yes, it is true that SOME advertisers have ran away from the platform, BUT - in 2018, 70% of the top 100 AdWeek Marketers were still placing ads on YouTube. YouTube is still VERY good business for advertisers. Each month, 1.9 billion logged-in users are visiting YouTube, and watching BILLIONS of hours of videos ever single down. It's the second most visited website in existence, and it's mobile ads receive attention from viewers roughly 85% of the time, which is VASTLY higher than what television or radio can claim.
Yes, some advertisers have split, but there are still plenty lining up to take their place.
Myth # 4 - Longer Videos Get Ranked Higher
Here's another one of those myths that has been spread near and far, and while there is a nugget of truth behind it, people have twisted it out of context...and creators are suffering for it.
Here's the thing- YouTube LOVES long videos that keep people around. The longer the viewer stays on YouTube, the more advertising YouTube can share, and the more money YouTube can make. That's a pretty simple concept obviously. So, the so called experts start telling everyone to make longer videos...15-20 minutes is the number I hear quite a bit, and if you can keep your viewers engaged for a full 20 minutes, fantastic! But... if you make your videos longer simply to appease some sort of rule that YouTube supposedly has suggested (they haven't actually directly suggested this by the way), you are taking a big risk. An 8 minute video that keeps 75% of it's viewership through the entire video is going to serve you much better than the 20 minute video where the viewers bail out after 8 minutes. It goes back to watch time. YouTube rewards for watch time, not for how long your video is.
Myth #5 - Only Your First 5 Tags Really Count
Tags are a mysterious creature who speak a language understood only understood by telepathic twins who were raised in by wolves. Yes, we all understand the point of them (which is to tell YouTube in concise terms what your video is all about), but there have been so conflicting reports of just HOW you are supposed to use them that most YouTubers feel like they are flying blind when it's time to choose their tags. Are you supposed to use as many tags as possible, or will you get penalized for too many tags? Should you use several variations of your primary key word, or does YouTube already handle that intuitively? Should you put your most important tags at the top of your list, or does it matter?
There's a very persistent myth that only your first 5 tags mean anything you YouTube. There are a lot of mysteries about tags, but the "Top 5" tags rule is one that we can verify is just that- a myth.
For the last several years, many of the most popular YouTube gurus have been telling people to make sure that their most important keyword is the first tag used, and then to go down in descending order with your 5 most relevant tags holding the most weight. Now, there are a couple of points we should probably address here...
First, YouTube has not told us to rank our tags in order themselves. This recommendation comes from third party research into what "seems to work" best, though there is some anecdotal evidence that it this may actually be a thing, there is no hard evidence- just potentially circumstantial evidence.
Second- The actual suggestion from most experts is that you should rank your keyword tags by descending order. They don't say that only the first 5 hold any weight- that is a misrepresentation of the advice, even if it is a well-intentioned one. There is no evidence that any tags past your first 5 hold no weight- by all evidence they still hold weight, just potentially less than the ones that precede them, and even then, this is only if the circumstantial evidence behind ranking your tags in order is true.
I'm not suggesting that you "keyword stuff" mind you- that really does seem to get you penalized, just like you have heard. Any keywords you add as tags should legitimately be supported by the content of your video and ideally by the descriptive text of your title and your description, but assuming your tags are legitimately related to your content, there is no reason to stop at just five! My recommendation- go ahead and put your most relevant keywords at the top of your list- it won't hurt anything to hedge your bets- just don't kill yourself trying to over analyze something that probably isn't really going to help you!